From People’s Daily in China:
Scientists: 290 mln-year-old fossil settles frog evolution debate
08:27, May 23, 2008
Their research is published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature.
The fossil that links modern frogs and salamanders proves the previously disputed fact some modern amphibians, frogs and salamanders, evolved from one group of ancient primitive amphibians called “temnospondyls.”
“This fossil is the most like the modern amphibian that you find and it’s from incredibly ancient times,” said principal investigator Jason Anderson, an assistant professor of veterinary anatomy at the University of Calgary in Canada who specializes in vertebrate paleontology.
“So what this does is provide conclusive evidence that frogs and salamanders have an origin among one particular group of extinct fossil amphibians,” Anderson said.
“This fossil falls right into a gap in the fossil record between one archaic group of amphibians and the earliest examples of the modern amphibians, frogs and salamanders.”
The fossil was first collected in Texas by the late Nicholas Hotton, a paleontologist with the Smithsonian Institution, in 1995. It was rediscovered in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., in 2004.
Dubbed Gerobatrachus hottoni (Hotton’s elder frog), the animal looked somewhat like a salamander with a stubby tail and froglike ears.
“It’s got a great big froggie ear and it’s reduced the number of vertebrae in its back … but like salamanders, it shares a particular fusion of some ankle bones,” said Anderson.
“The skull itself, you look at the skull and it is almost what you’d expect to see in a frog, really lightly built, kind of like soaring, flying buttresses on a cathedral, long arching struts, really broad and wide,” he explained.
The researchers believe the discovery is important not just for science, but also for the general public.
See also here.
Amphibian extinction threat: here.